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Is Giving Really All That One-Sided?

We all know the basic rule of thumb with giving – in order for it to work, there needs to be someone who gives and someone who receives. But until we make a regular habit of giving – be it time, gifts, effort or objects – it’s easy to miss the fact that giving isn’t as one-sided as it may first seem.

There are a lot of things that you get when you give, that you may not realize you get until you give.

I often share the story of my first real exposure to this amazing truth. I was living in Namibia, Africa for a year and after four months I decided to raise some money to help provide some basic needs for someone I had become friends with. Something unexpected happened when I helped provide for him. The experience left me feeling like I benefited more from the exchange than he did. He had something tangible that was absolutely going to make a difference for him, but at the same time, I’d never felt so full. The exchange didn’t leave me ‘in the hole’, it left me feeling like I had more than before I gave.

Since that day I’ve become much more open when similar opportunities present themselves. I’ve also taken on a personal challenge to not just wait for opportunities but to also seek them out. And I’ve met a number of people who I have so much to learn from.

There are people I know who make this a daily priority in their lives and I think they’re on to something.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the ‘not-so-one-sidedness’ of giving. There are REAL things that you actually get when you give.

Here are 5 of them:

  1. Joy – Giving ungrudgingly leaves you feeling more joyful, more fulfilled and more content. This can be something you feel after doing it once, but don’t expect an overwhelming feeling every time. Gifts are not always well received or accepted or appreciated the way you might expect. Joy will appear over the long haul as you make this a way of life. You might find yourself not so attached to things or not so selfish with your time. Making a habit of letting go of the accumulation of things and then looking for opportunities for how to use what you have to help others can lead to a greater sense of personal joy.
  2. Perspective – It never hurts to be reminded that you are not the only one that matters; that there are others around you who also matter – in fact, matter just as much as you do. What giving does is it momentarily takes our eyes off of ourselves and gives us a chance to genuinely see others. Surprisingly this change in perspective can be quite refreshing. It can actually lead to us becoming more thankful for what we’ve been given.
  3. Hope – The feeling we get when we give can remind us that there is hope for us when we find ourselves in a position of needing something. By giving to others we prove to ourselves that this type of behavior can exist. When we’re down or in need of help it’s easier to believe that people do care and that they can and will help us when we’re in need. Giving has a way of coming full circle which can lead to a greater sense of hope when we need it.
  4. A memory – Memories and stories can serve as powerful lessons and reminders. Giving allows us the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and about others, which can help us in the future. I have experienced some powerful lessons around giving that continue to serve as important reminders – memories – especially when times are tough. Hearing other peoples’ stories on the topic is one thing – creating your own to draw on is quite another.
  5. A sense of what really matters – I find some of the most well-balanced people I know are people who have learned the secret of giving. I can remember when I was younger being at someone’s house when something of value broke by accident. I braced for impact expecting some colorful comments and emotions. But the owner didn’t react harshly at all – they actually seemed to care more that the person didn’t feel bad then they did about the broken item. I think a habit of giving helps us understand what really matters.

Bonus: a personal interaction. By this, I mean the chance to connect with someone. Not all giving allows for this possibility. But when we’re afforded it, this can become something special. It can be how friendships are formed, or trust is built between two people or two groups of people. Just think about half the movies you watch and how a simple gift can lead to the most profound allegiances. When we connect with other people through the power of a simple act of giving, this can become something we never forget.

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